Vik Muniz, Double Mona Lisa (Peanut Butter and Jelly)(1999)
Vik Muniz, Double Mona Lisa (Peanut butter and Jelly) (1999), from After Warhol

Vik Muniz

Vik Muniz (Brazilian-American, born 1961) is distinguished as one of the most innovative and creative artists of our time. Endlessly playful and inventive in his approach, Muniz harnesses a remarkable virtuosity in creating his renowned “photographic delusions.”

Working with a dizzying array of unconventional materials—including sugar, tomato sauce, diamonds, magazine clippings, chocolate syrup, dust, and junk—Muniz painstakingly builds tableaux before recording them with his camera. From a distance, the subject of each resulting photograph is discernible; up close, the work reveals a complex and surprising matrix through which it was assembled. That revelatory moment when one thing transforms into another is of deep interest to the artist.

Muniz’s work often quotes iconic images from popular culture and art history, drawing on our sense of collective memory while defying easy classification and mischievously engaging a viewer’s process of perception. His more recent work incorporates electron microscopes and manipulates microorganisms to explore issues of scale while unveiling both the familiar and the strange in spaces that are typically inaccessible to the human eye.

This major mid-career retrospective canvasses more than twenty-five years of Muniz’s work to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, reminding us of the power of art to surprise, delight, and transform our perceptions of the world.

Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography Logo

This Exhibition has been co-organized by the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Minneapolis/New York City/Paris/Lausanne, and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, in association with the Sarasota Art Museum, Sarasota.

This exhibition generously sponsored by Robert & Beverly Bartner, Cookie Bloom, Ping & Fritz Faulhaber, Carter & Carol Fox, Innovative Dining, Beverly Koski, Thomas & Sherry Koski, Kevin Markham, Jean Martin, Henry & Ellen Mason, Bengt Niebuhr & Anna Nekoranec, Brian & Melinda O’Donnell, Scott & Jill Ramsey, Jerome & Marilyn Soble, Lois Stulberg, Wendy Surkis & Peppi Elona, Tom & Deborah Trimble, Ernest Werlin, Eleanor Williams, Stan Writesel & Alan Gravley
Paid for by Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax Revenues
Vik Muniz, Two Nails, (1987)

Vik Muniz

Two Nails


Gelatin silver print and nail

Courtesy of the artist

Richard & Barbara Basch Gallery

History of Photography

As an artist whose work normally concludes in the form of a photograph, Muniz has a deep fascination with the history of photography. He is keenly aware that photography, at its core, is both a documentary and artistic medium of expression, recording and shaping the way we see the world and acting as an agent of communication. Muniz has explored these concepts in several different series represented in this gallery.
In his Best of Life series, Muniz sketched from memory some of the most iconic press photos of the twentieth century, meditating on the ways these images sear themselves into the collective subconscious. He recreated Dorothea Lange’s renowned Depression-era photograph Migrant Mother, using pooled ink in a dotted halftone formation to render the image in the same medium that catapulted it to fame in the printed press.
Likewise, Muniz has used paper, the material on which photographic images are printed, to reconstruct and meditate on key images by some of the twentieth century’s most influential photographers, including Garry Winogrand and Weegee. In rendering these photographic originals by hand, Muniz ponders the role of the artist’s hands in an age transformed by the photo-mechanical and, more recently, digital revolutions.
Vik Muniz, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, after Edouard Manet (2012)

Vik Muniz

A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, after Edouard Manet

From Pictures of Magazines 2


Chromogenic print

Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts, London

Flora and Andrew Major Gallery

Elaine Mason Keating Gallery

Vik Muniz exhibition, Elaine Mason Keating Gallery
Vik Muniz exhibition
Elaine Mason Keating Gallery

Susan M. Palmer Gallery

Vik Muniz exhibition, Susan M. Palmer Gallery
Vik Muniz exhibition
Susan M. Palmer Gallery

Album and Postcards from Nowhere

In his recent Album and Postcards from Nowhere series, Muniz explores the physical traces that hold personal memories. In Album, he takes the time-honored tradition of the family snapshot as his subject. Each image in the series draws inspiration from familiar tropes found in family albums of the early twentieth century, like pictures of a child’s first birthday party or the exterior of a suburban family home.
Muniz fastidiously builds replicas of these generic and familiar moments by collecting thousands of discarded snapshots, cutting them up into small pieces, and pasting them together as a collage to form his intended scene. With an eye toward emphasizing the layered texture of the collage, Muniz pioneered a special approach to lighting and scanning the original before printing it at monumental scale.
The results are striking in their virtuosity. When seen up close, details from the multitude of original black-and-white pictures can be seen positioned in playful juxtaposition with one another. At a distance, the relative density of each fragment works with those around it to generate a coherent picture across the larger composition.

Vik Muniz


From Postcards from Nowhere


Chromogenic print

Courtesy of the artist

Vik Muniz, Jerusalem (2014)

The Original Copy

Great artists of every age have copied the work of their predecessors and, in the act of appropriation, have created remarkably fresh originals with distinct identities. Muniz has continued this tradition of copying as a legitimate creative act, learning from his close study of centuries of artistic practice. In this gallery, he playfully and skillfully re-creates work by some of art history’s greatest painters, harnessing a diverse set of materials to interpret compositions by Caravaggio, Gustave Courbet, Gerhard Richter, Mary Cassatt, and Andy Warhol.
Muniz’s use of junk and garbage as building materials for his compositions is particularly celebrated. To make his Pictures of Junk and Pictures of Garbage series, he placed his camera on a platform raised by a crane high above a warehouse floor. Using the open space below as a canvas, he arranged debris into sculptural compositions that re-created mythological scenes and famous paintings when seen from the camera’s elevated vantage point. The resulting photographs remain the only permanent record of these marvelous creations.
Working on a smaller scale within the confines of his studio, he has similarly innovated with materials as diverse as magazine clippings, paint chips, paper, and pigment to compose images with astounding presence.

Pictures of Garbage

Much of Muniz’s art involves educational and social justice projects in Brazil and abroad. In the Pictures of Garbage series, Muniz collaborated with the catadores or trash pickers, from the world’s largest landfill, the Jardim Gramacho in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The catadores helped select and arrange objects on the floor of a large warehouse in order to create portraits of themselves, many with art historical references.

His collaboration with the catadores as they assembled images of themselves out of garbage, reveals both the dignity and despair of these impoverished and often disenfranchised workers. Proceeds from the sale of the Pictures of Garbage prints were donated to the catadores and the co-operative they founded to support their mission to improve life in their community.

Vik Muniz, Marat (Sebastião) (2008)

Vik Muniz

Marat (Sebastião)

From Pictures of Garbage


Chromogenic print

Courtesy of the artist
and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York

Elaine and William W. Crouse Gallery

Early Work

Popular culture, and its resonance within our collective memory, has been of consistent interest to Muniz throughout his career. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he began exploring issues of celebrity and portraiture in his work, often experimenting with playful integrations of form and content. Muniz crafted images of famous movie stars in diamonds, represented the renowned Abstract Expressionist painter Jackson Pollock in chocolate syrup, portrayed the Cuban revolutionary icon Che Guevara in black beans, and cast the Mona Lisa in peanut butter and jelly in a witty reference to her exceptionally recognizable face.

Muniz also represented those who are normally overlooked. Using grains of sugar, he rendered portraits of children on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, whose weary families labored arduously for meager pay on the sugar cane plantations—a reminder that the sweetest things in life can have bitter origins. In 2003, he began designing his first monumental works, conjuring recognizable subjects from hundreds of small objects as demonstrated nearby in his triptych of a soldier, American Indian, and horse built imaginatively from tiny toy soldiers.
Muniz’s early interests in scale and perspective, wit and playfulness, fame and social consciousness, took root as conceptual threads that would crisscross throughout his career.
Vik Muniz, Mahana No Atua (Day of the Gods), after Gaugin (2005)

Vik Muniz

Mahana No Atua (Day of the Gods), after Gaugin

From Pictures of Pigment


Chromogenic print

Courtesy of the artist

Vik Muniz

Marlene Dietrich

From Pictures of Diamonds


Chromogenic print

Courtesy of Galerie Xippas, Paris

Vik Muniz, Marlene Dietrich (2004)
Vik Muniz, Toy Soldier (2003)

Vik Muniz

Toy Soldier

From Monads


Chromogenic print

Courtesy of the artist

North Gallery

The World in a Grain of Sand

To see the world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.

The works in this gallery show Muniz playfully riffing on ideas of scale: making extremely large subjects appear small and representing particles invisible to the naked eye at enormous sizes. In blurring the line between these seemingly simple divisions, Muniz poses questions about the nature of perception.
In his Colonies and Sandcastles series, Muniz worked at a microscopic scale. For Colonies, Muniz trained cells—including cancer cells, liver cells, and samples from his own cheek—to grow into specific patterns, much as a gardener prunes plants to coax them into particular formations. Muniz collaborated with an MIT scientist to pull off a heroic feat in Sandcastles: they used lasers to carve images of castles onto single grains of sand. The resulting photographs are made through a high-powered microscope.
For his Earthworks series, Muniz took inspiration from Land Art (such as Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, which is only fully visible from the sky). Muniz executed a series of drawings carved by bulldozers in vast landscapes and photographed them from a helicopter. He paired them with photographs of small-scale simulations of Land Art he made on a tabletop in his studio. It is exceedingly difficult to differentiate between the two when seeing them together, as they are displayed here, illustrating what Muniz calls “the gap between the scales of reality and representation.”
Vik Muniz, Sandcastle #10 (2014)

Vik Muniz

Sandcastle #10

From Sandcastles


Chromogenic print

Courtesy of the artist
and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York

B. Claire Rusen Gallery

Vik Muniz

Valentine, the Fastest

From Sugar Children


Gelatin Silver Print

Courtesy of the artist

Vik Muniz, Valentine, the Fastest (1996)
Vik Muniz, Medusa Marinara (1997)

Vik Muniz

Medusa Marinara


Cibachrome print

Courtesy of the artist

The Curiosity Cabinet

The Pilot draws an Elephant

The lament at the beginning of the charming tale, The Little Prince, involves childlike wonder being dashed by adult reason. The Pilot is forlorn that adults are not scared by his drawing, clearly showing a boa constrictor who swallowed an elephant. All adults see is a hat. The Pilot is compelled to make another drawing, which exposes the trick, so the adults can see what is happening.

Vik’s playful take on this iconic “Drawing Number Two“, giving the elephant a “cubist” makeover, embodies the complexity and humor of his practice. So many powerful jokes rely on multiple levels of meaning, the proverbial “punch line” being just one of the messages shared.

The adults advised the Pilot to give up drawing and pursue a career more practical than that of an artist.

Isn’t it marvelous that Vik didn’t listen to the adults? He kept drawing…

The Curiosity Cabinet of Vik Muniz

The Wunderkammer (German for “wonder room”) is a random collection of objects that pique our curiosity (hence “curio cabinet”). These collections were largely gathered before the late 18th century, when categories of knowledge began to be structured and organized by discipline along the lines of “Eurocentric” logic, as opposed to the indigenous cosmologies of the source cultures. A curiosity cabinet might contain a “unicorn’s horn” (most likely the tusk of a narwhal), shells, skeletons, gems, feathers…all of which fed the “Western” imagination of “exotic” cultures.

In the widest sense, a Wunderkammer is a collection of our fantasies, our imaginings, and our natural inquisitiveness. Vik Muniz’ unparalleled mind is like a magical curiosity cabinet, endlessly gathering interesting things and generating new perspectives. He helps us see the world anew. Few artists embody such a playful sense of wonder and discovery as Vik.

"I think of my photographs as very short plays, a fraction of a second long, in which a bad actor – say, cotton, clay, or molasses – performs the role of an object, a person, or a landscape, before the lens of a camera.

I cast ‘bad actors’ because I don’t want people simply to see a representation of something; I want them to know how it happens. I consider that moment of consciousness the embodiment of a spiritual experience.”

"I want to create the worst possible illusions so it doesn’t really fool people, but give people a measure of their own belief.

It makes them aware of how much they need to be fooled in order to understand the world around them."